For all the good the EU has done for the companies and countries it presides over, giving them and their economies safety and security (except if you’re living in Greece) and more or less keeping the markets over there free and fair, its safe to say that without it things would be a little more chaotic and disorganised. It was the EU that brought the full force of the law down on Intel, forcing it to pay AMD for its unfair business practices. Recently they scrutinised some dodgy aspects of Apple’s warranty and even slapped some sense into Google when their Street View vans were collecting Wi-Fi data. Its been a good thing for many products, games and technology sold in the regions it presides in, but occasionally its also been prone to massive, massive amounts of stupidity.
Case in point, their latest attempt to regulate energy consumption in appliances and computer technology, called the EuP Lot 3 energy bill.
Now, I’m all for energy efficiency. I heavily criticised AMD on many occasions this year for not improving their power consumption and efficiency figures. I always recommend that people buy the right kind of power supply for their computer to increase efficiency and reduce power wastage. Despite the fact that I don’t pay for my own electricity, I’m always encouraging people to find ways to reduce their consumption and carbon footprint.
According to a revision made by the EU to a 2005 draft to amend an even older power consumption bill, however, much more can be done at a level where consumers don’t have to do this nasty business of being Eco-friendly. EuP Lot 3 is a restrictive bill that aims to regulate how appliances and especially computer components use electricity. While their power grid isn’t as strained as ours, they’re definitely short on a few nuclear reactors. What the bill aims to do is impose a cap on how graphics cards in particular are regulated and wants to bar or strictly regulate the sales of graphics cards capable of bandwidth in the 320GB/s range, which can be achieved with DDR5 RAM at 6.67GHz with a 384-bit bus, or 5GHz RAM on a 512-bit bus. Wait, why do they want to do this?
Because the EU, being the absolute geniuses they are, thinks that graphics bandwidth is proportional to power consumption. What a bunch of complete morons!
Now maybe these guys are console fanboys. Maybe they can’t afford a GTX690 themselves and want to ruin the party for others. Or maybe they do have a GTX690 and just want to make sure no-one else can get close to the card in future (bragging rights, maybe?). Whatever the reason is, the highest tier in the table (G7) is the limit of where cards can be sold to customers with aplomb and no regulations whatsoever, with bandwidth rates below 128GB/s with a bus size smaller or equal to 192 bits. Anything higher than a 192-bit bus will be heavily regulated and possibly even withheld from market, capping how many GTX690s someone can fit into their computer, if at all.
Now if Neo can step in the comments section sometime, he’ll say the same thing I will: increased bandwidth doesn’t automatically translate into higher performance or higher power consumption. I don’t see why the EU wants to impose such a stupidly restrictive cap that was determined six years ago because the hardware industry has proven time and time again that you can always make your products more efficient. Look at the GTX680 – its a single-core card that performs better than a GTX580, runs at faster clocks than a GTX580, is cooler than a GTX580 and even uses less power to top it all off. Implementing some arbitrary limitation that doesn’t even affect power consumption all that much just smacks of someone imposing these limitations because they can and they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. Or perhaps someone’s taking in a payment on the side in return for pushing through this piece of nonsense?
But like spilt milk, there’s no use crying about it now. The bill has already been tabled at the EU and is expected to come into force either in mid-2013 or early in 2014. That gives both AMD and Nvidia just under a year to fix this crap before they are barred from selling their high-end models to customers and gamers. And it won’t just affect one market – it’ll affect Nvidia’s Quadro, Tesla and Fermi ranges as well as AMD’s Firepro lineup. Even Intel’s parallel GPU accelerator, the Xeon Phi, will be affected, with a rumored bus size of 512 bits and DDR5 RAM to boot.
To comply with this law, manufacturers and OEM companies have to articificially limit or intentionally cripple their designs and products to fall under the legal limit. This may mean that a large part of the high-end ranges won’t be sold, with cards sporting a 192-bit bus limited to certain maximum speeds in the BIOS. This even affects notebooks as well, with graphics cards limited by law to 225GB/s.
I don’t see the need for such a stupid, restrictive law. Regulate how much electricity people use by giving them prepaid meters and charging for excessive residential use, but don’t do the limiting for them by crippling or tampering with the they pay good money for products. This won’t sit well with gamers and power users and it especially won’t sit well with Sony and Microsoft when they launch their next generation of consoles. I understand that laws are meant to help keep the peace and install some order, but not in this way.
If this bill is allowed to be policed and has some kind of enforcement behind it, you can likewise expect the cops at overclocking competitions, waiting for someone to rock up with a HD8890 and overclock it beyond the legal levels allowed. And there’s even worse news in store for us, South Africa – we’re an EMEA region, which means we receive the same products and games made to meet the demands of customers in Europe. This might just affect us too.